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Employees of the Ministry of the Environment who reside in Rouyn-Noranda are excluded from the file.

Fonderie Horne: Quebec excludes officials from the file | Indoor air quality Rouyn-Noranda

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Benoit Charette, Quebec Minister of the Environment since 2019. (Archive photo)< /p>

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This is their biggest issue and they are being sidelined. Officials from the Ministry of the Environment who live in Rouyn-Noranda no longer have the right to work on the subject of the Horne Foundry, Radio-Canada has learned. The Legault government considers them to be in a conflict of interest, due to a collective action procedure involving all residents of the city which targets the Ministry.

Quebec also excluded from the file all its Environment officials who have resided in Rouyn-Noranda at any given time since 1991, because they are also automatically included in the class action request, filed in Superior Court, at least of October.

If the legal proceedings are accepted and come to an end, the applicants could claim up to $528,000 in damage, due to fear of illness, stress and neighborhood disturbances caused by the activities of the Horne Foundry.

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The Notre-Dame district, near the Horne Foundry, in Rouyn-Noranda. (File photo)

In short, anyone who could sue must no longer work on the file, this is the instruction that was given, confirms the president of the Union of Professionals of the Government of Quebec (SPGQ), Guillaume Bouvrette. p>

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He does not understand this decision which he describes as superfluous. According to him, civil servants are fully capable of working independently, without the class action influencing their judgment.

It is not because we are affected by an issue, sometimes in a very distant way, that, all of a sudden, our impartiality is purchased.

A quote from Guillaume Bouvrette, president of the Union of Professionals of the Government of Quebec

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Guillaume Bouvrette, president of the Union of Professionals of the Government of Quebec.

We defend the right of our members to a work environment where loyalty to the public interest is valued, protected and not called into question for political interests, adds the union president.

He cites the Louis Robert affair as well as the recent controversy in the Northvolt case as examples where there has been a clash between the duty of loyalty of civil servants towards their employer and their duty towards the population, which is essential for us.

Even if the Ministry of Health and Social Services is also targeted by the class action request, the employees of the CISSS de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue, to which regional public health belongs, are not affected by the instruction, because they are independent of the ministry.

In a letter obtained by Radio-Canada, the independent monitoring committee, formed by the government to monitor compliance with agreements with the Horne Foundry, expressed its significant concerns to the Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette, calling it an unjustified idea.

On February 1, President Martine Rioux wrote: There seems to be a questioning of the environmental monitoring of Glencore by the regional management of Abitibi -Témiscamingue because its employees are possible applicants, which could place us all in a possible conflict of interest situation.

Employees of the regional directorate of the ministry play an essential role in monitoring the activities of the Foundry, particularly with regard to the urgent evaluation of incidents and citizen complaints. You know to what extent time plays an important role for an adequate assessment of an environmental emergency situation.

A quote from Martine Rioux, president of the independent monitoring committee for monitoring authorization Ministerial of the Horne Foundry

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In March 2023, copper concentrate dust spread in the Notre-Dame district, turning the snow black. (Archive photo)

With the sidelining of local officials, who will intervene in the event of pollution, who will make impromptu visits to the site of the Foundry to verify the conformity of operations? Impossible to know, the Ministry of the Environment refused to answer our questions in detail.

The Ministry ensures that neither its role nor its responsibilities are impacted by the situation.

Rest assured that the Ministry has all its capacity to act quickly in all aspects and mandates with all the required expertise.

A quote from Sophie Gauthier, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment , the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks of Quebec

The judicialization of the case had other consequences for the independent monitoring committee, on which we find in particular representatives of the City of Rouyn-Noranda and researchers. Members were informed that observers from the regional environment directorate of the Ministry should no longer participate in the meetings and would henceforth be replaced by one or more people from Quebec.

Also, the ministry informed the committee that it must go through the access to documents law to obtain information necessary for its work, which risks considerably increasing delays.

We are aware that new issues raise important questions, but we are extremely concerned by the fact that the solutions chosen could have disastrous impacts, writes Martine Rioux, in her letter to Minister Charette.

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